"Malaysia did well during pandemic era"

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has performed comparatively well during Covid-19 compared to other developing Asian countries such as Mongolia, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, said the World Bank.

The country had lower sales loss for companies and less household income reduction during the pandemic than the other five countries, according to the World Bank country manager Yasuhiko Matsuda.

Nevertheless, Matsuda said while the macro economy showed signs of recovery, certain segments still lagged behind and required focused attention and support.

There were disparities in Malaysia, where smaller companies and vulnerable households faced more challenges and had limited access to government aid, he added.

This is exemplified by the well-known digital divide issue, as poorer individuals lacked internet access and were required physical presence as they were not allowed to work remotely.

"The burden fell on them (poor people) disproportionately compared to white collar professionals," he told reporters after a panel discussion on Building Malaysia's Resilience here today.

The World Bank conducted surveys among households and firms to understand how they were dealing with the crisis and how government assistance was functioning.

Based on the survey, he said smaller companies were more heavily impacted compared to larger ones.

Matsuda said in order to solve this disparity, the government should come up with future policy agenda to improve basic infrastructure, enhance digital access and make government assistance more efficient and transparent.

"There is also room for improvement in terms of information disclosure to ensure that smaller farms and rural households are aware of available programmes," he said.

In the medium to long-term, a range of social assistance programmes should be consolidated to provide better coverage and protection to low-income and vulnerable  households, helping promote equitable recovery.

Matsuda said labour market programmes that involve reskilling and upskilling can empower individuals for sustained engagement in economic activities, particularly for poor and underprivileged people.

"Really poor people are often don't have the capacity to take advantage of job training and other things. To optimise outcomes, a strategy that concentrates assistance on the most vulnerable, even if it means assisting fewer families with more substantial support, proves more effective.

"To ensure a successful system, a competitive economy and a robust fiscal capacity are essential. This allows for a well-funded and efficient social protection programmes, which includes social insurance for contributors and social assistance for low-paid informal workers unable to contribute," he said.

Matsuda said the Madani framework comprehensively addressed these aspects. However, the crucial aspect lies in the effective implementation of these strategies.

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